Facing Looming Budget Crisis, Lightfoot to Address Chicago's Finances

Note: Lightfoot's speech will be broadcast live on NBC 5 and Telemundo Chicago - and on both stations' digital platforms, including the video player above - beginning at 6 p.m. CST Thursday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot was scheduled to deliver a "state of the city" address Thursday evening, expected to paint a clearer picture of Chicago's finances as the city faces a massive budget deficit.

"With the City facing financial challenges this year, it is crucial that we have an open and honest conversation with residents from across the city, as well as with departments, city leaders and other stakeholders to develop solutions that will make our government stronger and work more efficiently for all of our neighborhoods," Lightfoot said in a statement announcing the address, as well as four budget town hall meetings across Chicago in September.

Before he left office, former Mayor Rahm Emanuel projected that the city this coming year would face a $700 million budget shortfall - a number that Lightfoot later said would be even higher.

"I know that number has been put out by the Emanuel administration, but it’s worse than that," Lightfoot said at the time, though her administration has yet to offer its own estimate.

"We're in a fiscal crisis, there's no question about it," Lightfoot said in a one-on-one interview on Monday, though she declined to offer insight into how her administration may cut spending or raise revenue. 

Her speech Thursday was expected to focus on her "vision for a long-term financial plan," her office said, and will be coordinated with the release of the city's 2020 budget forecast - a picture of Chicago's finances, current costs and obligations as well as future cost projections.

Lightfoot's speech comes a little over a week after she imposed a hiring freeze across city government until further notice due to the looming budget deficit, according to a memo from the city's budget director to all commissioners and department heads.

"As the City faces significant financial challenges in 2020 and beyond, we are exercising prudent measures and a careful review of all city department budgets so that we can identify ways to maximize operational efficiency, while continuing to provide the highest quality services to protect residents and neighborhoods," city budget director Susie Park said in a statement on the freeze.

The freeze "will allow the Budget Office to take a hard look at our programs, services and operational needs to determine our spending priorities for 2020," Park continued, adding, "With Chicago facing one of the largest budgetary gaps in recent history, these measures are just one part of a broader approach we must take to restore our finances and put Chicago on a path to a stronger, more secure future."

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